Katie and I arrived at Berlin Tegel airport on a beautiful Wednesday morning, and our cab driver spoke semi-fluent English (little did we know he was the exception to the rule). He happily pointed out many of the local attractions on the way to our new apartment in the part of the city called Charlottenberg. I had not researched the area much before arriving but I knew it was a nice neighborhood, and upon arriving it certainly seemed active with people of all backgrounds browsing the shops and eating at cafes and restaurants. We arrived safely, and carried our mound of bags up five flights of stairs to our new home for the next ten months.
Directly across the street from our apartment is the German opera house, or Deutsche Oper, which on performance nights is lit up and bustling with opera-goers both inside and out. My wife Katie will have over forty performances on the stage in their upcoming season, and together we attended our first show, “Die Walküre” on Sunday evening. The house was packed to the brim, and the audience enthusiastically clapped and cheered for the cast like nothing I’ve ever heard during an opera in the States.
Aside from opera taking over our lives, we’ve had a chance to experience a little of Berlin’s culture, with much more in the days to come. We’ve encountered our first German Biergarten, where people from the neighborhood gather to eat bratwurst, leberkäse, sauerkraut, giant soft pretzels, and of course drink beer. Everyone sits together on long picnic tables and it’s like one big happy family.
Not only is the German food and drink excellent, but true to form in any large city, there’s an abundance of ethnic food to make your mouth water… including Italian, Vietnamese and Turkish, all within our vicinity. We even have an old palace nearby called the Schloss Charlottenberg, with beautifully manicured grounds and an enormous park for walking and biking.
In the short time we’ve been living in Berlin, my first impressions are very positive overall with its clean subways, safe streets and cute cafes and shops. In some regards, the language barrier makes every living moment anxiety-laden, but it’s all part of the experience. (I am thankful to have survived with my numbers and days of the week from three years of high school German class.) But in the end, espresso is espresso, coffee becomes Kaffee and we’ll say Hallo and Guten Morgen. They even have Coca-Cola, and it still comes in a bottle.